Hemispheric Processing of Sarcastic Text

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Recent evidence suggests that certain types of figurative language, such as conventional metaphors or idioms, may have a left hemisphere processing advantage or are processed similarly in both hemispheres. Sarcasm, however, is likely processed differently than other types of figurative language in the hemispheres because readers often need to construct a novel interpretation of sarcastic text to successfully understand the text’s sarcastic meaning. To investigate how the hemispheres process sarcasm during text comprehension, participants in the current study read sarcastic, literal, and neutral texts and made lexical decisions to related target words presented to either the left visual field-right hemisphere or the right visual field-left hemisphere. Facilitation for sarcastic texts was greater in the right hemisphere than the left hemisphere. In addition, facilitation was greater for literal texts than sarcastic texts in the left hemisphere. These findings suggest that the right hemisphere may play a unique role when readers encounter sarcasm during text comprehension.


At the time of publications Stephen W. Briner was affiliated with DePaul University.